Lucky Bamboo Care Guide
Dracaena braunii or Dracaena sanderiana is actually a hardy member of the lily family, and not a true bamboo at all. Because of its long-standing association with the 5000 year old art of feng shui, this plant is thought of as Asian when in fact it is native to West Africa. Associations and myths aside, the plant is, regardless, considered by the Chinese to be a symbol of luck and prosperity and they have assigned it many different meanings based upon the number of stalks the plant has:
- 3 stalks represent wealth, happiness, and longevity
- 5 stalks are a symbol of balance in the five vital areas of life – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and intuitive
- 6 stalks represent favorable conditions for luck and prosperity
- 7 stalks are the harbinger of good health
- 8 stalks are representative of success, due to the similarity in the sound of the word "eight" in Chinese to the word "fah" which means to thrive and grow
- 10 stalks are symbolic of an ideal situation
- 21 stalks are considered extremely fortunate and represent a blessing on a household
The stalks range from a pale yellow-green to bright green, and do very much resemble the segmented, woody look of bamboo. The leaves, which sprout out of light green shoots at the top portion of the stalk, are long and slender. In its natural habitat the plant will grow to 6-10 feet in height. This houseplant is highly favored as a form of bonsai because it is virtually care-free.
Lucky Bamboo is very tolerant of both high and low light conditions. It should be kept indoors, above a temperature of 55° Fahrenheit. Exposure to direct sunlight magnified through a window should be minimized in order to avoid scorching the leaves. Normal household humidity levels work fine for this plant.
Dracaena braunii is often sold in glass containers filled with rocks and water because it's visually attractive. This is not an aquatic species, and while the plant will hang onto life for several months if kept in these conditions, it is not ideal and the plant will eventually die. Like most bonsai, this plant should be kept in a moist, well-draining soil so that the roots receive enough oxygen. It is ideal to water with distilled or rain water as this is one of the few species that does not tolerate chlorinated water very well.
Lucky Bamboo does not need a lot of feeding. If desired, you can administer a drop of liquid fertilizer every couple of months.
While not a traditional bonsai, this can be a fun plant to experiment with. Most of the time these plants come with very little foliage left. The leaves facilitate photosynthesis, which keeps the plant healthier, so letting some foliage grow in is a good idea. Pinching some of the new shoots back to an inch or two from the stalk will stimulate even more dense growth.
Next, you might have seen those curly, spiraled Lucky Bamboo stalks. Because the plant is stiff and cannot be wired, this must be accomplished by gradually exposing one side of the plant to the light source. You can cut one side off a box, place it upside-down over your plant, and then rotate the stalk about one inch each time you notice that it has started bending toward the light. This process can take more than a year but the results are visually interesting.
Lucky bamboo is literally one of the easiest plants in the world to propagate. Choose the largest shoot on the stalk and remove from the plant, cutting about two centimeters from the stalk. Remove any leaves at the base and place in water for a few months until it sets roots, then transplant to potting soil.
You can repot D. Braunii every other year or when it becomes root-bound. Remove any roots that appear unhealthy or discolored and transplant into fresh soil. If you do choose to keep your plant in water, change the water and wash the rocks and vase every two weeks.
Insects/Pests & Diseases
This plant does not suffer from very many typical problems.
Yellowing stalks can mean over-fertilization.
Brown tips on leaves could result from fluoride burn – switch to distilled or rain water.
If you notice a sticky substance on the leaves, this could indicate aphids or other "honeydew" producing insects. Wash the plant down with a spray of dish soap and water, then rinse with plain water.